The Cloud Supports DX in Healthcare

June 9, 2022
Cloud, Healthcare

The Cloud Supports DX in Healthcare

Digital transformation (DX) isn’t necessarily an easy process, but it is one that healthcare organizations need to get moving on.

Increasingly, patients expect healthcare services to be delivered similarly to those they get from financial services, retail, and other industries ─ on-demand, virtual if possible, and tailored to their preferences. There’s also pressure from payors. Insurers are driving a shift to valuable-based care (VBC), forcing providers to focus on positive patient outcomes rather than the number of services given. Digital tools, like AI-enabled analytics, are essential because they can help optimize care without compromising costs.

Yet another DX driver ─ competition and not just from other providers and payors. The Big Four tech companies — Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft — are accelerating their pursuit of the healthcare market with consumer-first, tech-focused approaches.

The problem with making progress in a DX journey is that someone has to do the actual work. Much of it falls to IT, and IT staff typically don’t have a lot of free time.

They’re already busy installing or upgrading and maintaining systems to collect, store, process, and analyze Big Data, as well as support telehealth applications. They’re dealing with “Band-Aid repairs” and workarounds for fixing legacy solutions. They’re rolling out new software and mobile applications, upgrading existing ones, and providing training.

There’s the constant battle against cyberthreats, and the need to meet regulatory requirements. Healthcare IT departments are also subject to many of the same pressures as their counterparts in other organizations: shrinking budgets and difficulty in hiring and retaining qualified staff.

One solution to help ease some of the burden is the use of cloud services.

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Cloud Benefits for Healthcare

The cloud is providing the flexibility, scalability, and high-performance computing power to support new digital healthcare services and solutions such as mobile health, smart connected health devices, and AI-powered diagnostics. It’s helping to accelerate medical and clinical research efforts. It’s powering systems that can gather, process, and store patient data ─ and help secure its privacy.

It's also facilitating innovation. With the cloud, users can start small and experiment. If the project works, it’s easy to quickly increase storage, computational resources, and users, and even scale across geographies. If the project doesn’t work, it can simply be shut down. There’s no commitment to a long-term capital expense.

Just as important, the cloud is enabling organizations in the healthcare industry to convert capital expenses to operational expenses and reduce the labor and costs required for on-premises data centers. The result: internal IT resources, including staff, are freed up and can be focused on more strategic initiatives like DX and innovation.

Here are a few more of the benefits:

  • Cost savings. Capital expenditures are slashed because the cloud services provider (CSP) is responsible for purchasing and maintaining the infrastructure. Scalable cloud resources, paid for as operating expenses, can be used when and as needed.
  • Efficient patient scheduling. Cloud-based software enables those who schedule patient appointments to easily view provider enrollment status. That reduces enrollment issues, resulting in less patient wait time and greater patient satisfaction.
  • Communication and access. Cloud services enable anytime, anywhere access to applications and data. They also enable connections to a larger ecosystem of providers, payers, researchers, and others, facilitating greater collaboration.
  • Interoperability. Interoperability, powered by cloud solutions, makes patients’ data available for easy distribution and for generating insights to aid healthcare delivery.

The Security of the Cloud

The nature of the data it deals with ─ patient records, Social Security numbers credit card details, and so on ─ makes the healthcare industry a prime target for cybercriminals. It doesn’t help that healthcare organizations often have broad attack surfaces, given that they make use of a large variety of equipment, devices, and mobile applications.

This is another area where the can cloud can help. Reputable cloud services providers (CSPs) invest in top-of-the-line security technologies and highly trained security professionals. Many also offer single-tenant private clouds, eliminating the worries associated with the multi-tenant variety.

The best among the CSPs that cater to the healthcare sector employ security best practices, such as depth-in-defense and zero-trust strategies. They conduct vulnerability and physical testing to ensure the integrity and security of their services. They also undergo annual audits for HIPAA compliance and will sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA).

While IT security is a shared responsibility between healthcare organizations and their CSPs, the CSPs are the ones staying on top of the latest threats and vulnerabilities. They’re also responsible for protecting the infrastructure that powers their solutions, including the compute, storage, and network subsystems, and the software (virtualization layer).

The Colocation and Edge Options

The cloud isn’t the only IT infrastructure option that can ease the burden on healthcare IT staffs and support DX. Like the cloud, colocation employs predictable OpEx. It enables healthcare organizations to phase out of the data center business, while still maintaining control of their IT assets.

Plus, many colocation facilities offer multiple high-quality networking options and a more robust power-per-square foot ratio than is typically available in on-premises data centers — an important consideration for powering advanced technologies.

Edge data centers, in particular, can play an important role in DX. They put computation and data storage physically close to where the data integral to advanced technologies is generated and used, as is the case with wearable sensors that record patients’ health information in their own homes.

This optimizes network data traffic, increasing data transmission efficiency. At the same time, it reduces the size of the attack surface, improving security. It also yields increased bandwidth, which is more important than ever to accommodate increasing volumes of telehealth visits and clinical collaboration.

In addition, the capabilities of edge data centers can improve the delivery of various medical services. For instance, robotic surgeries depend on ultra-low latency computing and uninterrupted network access, which edge data centers supply. Edge data center services also lend themselves to drone deliveries of necessary medical resources and lab samples.

The US Signal Advantage

US Signal understands the IT needs of the healthcare industry and offers IT strategies and solutions to meet even the most complex of them. Our industry experience, ability to customize IT solutions, and our investment in HIPAA-compliant, audited IT infrastructure are among the factors that uniquely position us to help IT professionals develop, implement, and manage technology solutions that support and enable DX in the healthcare industry.

Contact US Signal at 866.274.4625 or [email protected].